The power of a photograph

July 19, 2013

Greg Sawisky, medical student and photojournalist

 

University of Alberta medical student Greg Sawisky used photojournalism to capture his classmates’ personal stories: the reasons they chose medicine and the life events that shaped their decision.

Some stories were so touching – including one classmate, whose mother had suffered a traumatic brain injury and it inspired them to become a neurologist.

Laura Vogels, medical studentWhen Greg Sawisky made the decision to trade in his career as a photojournalist to go to medical school, he had no intention of hanging up his camera. “Global health initiatives have long used photojournalism as a tool for health advocacy, so I knew I would be able to combine the two somehow.”

He was surprised at how soon the opportunity to use his photojournalism skills would arrive. “I had taken some portraits on a break and I realized how interesting it would be to capture as many of my classmates as possible and document why they chose medicine.”

Mike Amatto, medical studentThat idea quickly took shape, becoming a project entitled In their own words: medical students on why they chose healthcare. Over the course of his first year, Sawisky set out to capture 100 classmates, the reasons they chose medicine and the life events that shaped their decision.

He was astounded by the diversity of what they had to say. “Some stories were so touching – including one classmate, whose mother had suffered a traumatic brain injury and it inspired them to become a neurologist.”
As to his own story, Sawisky was inspired by the desire to play a more active role in the stories he was documenting as a photojournalist. “I wanted to use the interview skills I had, but to be able to help the people I was interacting with.”

Angeline Martin, medical studentHis photographs will be displayed during this year’s K-Days, at the University of Alberta’s 100 Years of Medicine Exhibit and will also be showcased at the J. W. Scott Health Sciences Library later this fall. And although he’s completed the initial 100 portraits, he’s not done yet. “I thought the 100 would be enough, but I still have more people willing to participate and more stories that I want to tell.”

The AMA advances patient-centered, quality care by advocating for and supporting physician leadership and wellness.